I found out last week that I have a new monicker. My nephew Jed, lives 30 miles from me. He has the rare privilege of being my nearest relative. I have the gift of being close to my beloved sister Rita’s boy. My grandkids (who would be Jed’s 2nd cousin) actually call him “Uncle Jed”. He was sort of raised in our family as our fifth kid. Jed can do anything—install a ceiling fan, fix our toilet, move anything (he is 6’5” and 260) and is a joy to be with. This summer his trips to Arvada to help us have involved bringing Emily (8) and Westin (6), to swim at our Whisper Creek Pool.
This week he came to help us move a table. When we pulled in the driveway we were greeted with giant smiles and “Hey Grunkle Mark”. Grunkle is the made up word for Great Uncle stolen from the Simpsons. Well, Grunkle Mark headed with the Cook family to the swimming pool after the table found its home. We spent an hour playing in the water and Westin beat me in every competition I challenged him to—including spinning in circles with a noodle 20 times. I was at 16 when he finished. We had a perfect July afternoon outing.
This Grunkle identity prompted a conversation with my sister Rita. She loved the name. We then talked about our time each summer with our great Aunt Katherine and Uncle Paul from Littleton. They borrowed us each summer for some kid time. Polly, their only child, was on her way to college and so for three or four summers we would spend a week in Littleton with them.
They had an amazing weeping willow in their front yard that was great for climbing. There was a park with a small lake just a few blocks from their home. Rita remembers catching her first fish there. I would often go by myself and bring home a few catfish for Aunt Katherine to fry up. I learned very quickly that catfish had spikes which stung, unlike the Brook trout that I caught on the Little Muddy Creek in the Greenhorns.
Uncle Paul was my grandmother Opal’s youngest brother. He was the director of Arapaho Counties Social Services, and Aunt Katherine was a teacher at The Country Day Academy. However, to me she was the most amazing pie cook I had ever known. She rolled out Colorado peach or cherry pies, which were our two favorites. Uncle Paul’s car knew the way
each summer to Elitch Gardens (the REAL ONE), a classic amusement park.
We never knew the word Grunkle or Graunt but we sure had them. I could only hope that the time we get with Jed’s wonderful kids make some memories that will sustain and feed them on their journey. I didn’t bake any pies but I did take them for their first ever Taco Bell run, which was a big hit.
Onward and Upward, Mark